Tennis star Sania Mirza says that, though other sports are gaining popularity, cricket still dominates, and that should change. “Cricket is a religion in India... it doesn’t need promotion. But it would be great if India becomes an all sports nation. I don’t believe in competing with cricket, but other sports need encouragement,” she says.
Sania adds that while it’s great to see full stands in tennis and badminton matches, we have a long way to go. “I still have relatives saying, ‘achha, khelne jaa rahi hai (Oh, so you’re going to play!)’ not realising the hard work and sweat that I put in and what I’m doing for my country,” says the 26-year-old, who was in Delhi on Friday, and played a friendly game of badminton at a promotional event. Though she’s a movie buff, Sania says she wouldn’t want to work in a film. “I’ve been offered Bollywood films, but I’m not interested.” Ask her how she and her cricketer-husband Shoaib Malik keep their bond strong despite crazy schedules, and she says, “We try matching our schedules. But I can’t deny that we meet more on the road than at home.”
Badminton ace Saina Nehwal
Badminton ace Saina Nehwal feels that youngsters should bring about a change in the sports arena by moving beyond their fascination for cricket. The 23-year-old Olympic bronze medalist says, “You can’t compare cricket with badminton, but interest in badminton is growing and that’s heartening. Who knows it may become the most popular sport soon. Youngsters should wake up to other sports as well.
Let’s show the world that we’re not just a cricket loving nation.” The World No. 3 is confident of putting up a good show at the World Championships in August, and is excited about inaugural Indian Badminton League, which kicks off next month. “It’s great that stars from others sports such as Sachin (Tendulkar) and Sania are supporting it.” Does the busy sportstar get time to watch latest films like a regular 20-something? After much deliberation, she says, “The last film I saw was Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani.” Interestingly, the film stars Deepika Padukone, who used to play badminton when young. Saina has a message for her. “Deepika is a big film star, she has played badminton when she was young. It’ll be great if she supports us.”